COMMERCIALIZING A NEW INTERNET-OF-THINGS TECHNOLOGY FOR THE GERMAN MARKET
LEDVANCE GmbH, a German-based multinational lighting manufacturer
An interdisciplinary team of industrial design, engineering, computer science, and management students
IDEO Design Thinking, user interviews, persona creation, user journey mapping, rapid and high-fidelity prototyping, meta-model, conjoint analysis
Munich (Germany) | St. Gallen (Switzerland) | Silicon Valley (USA)
LEDVANCE GmbH, based in Garching bei München, Germany, is an international company for lighting products and networked light applications that evolved from the divestment of OSRAM Licht AG in July 2016.
The product portfolio of Ledvance consists of LED lamps, over-the-counter (OTC) luminaires, lighting solutions for the Smart Home and Smart Building sectors, and traditional lamps. The products are distributed via wholesale and retail as well as online platforms.
Since 2018, LEDVANCE has been aiming to commercialize and promote a novel lighting concept called Human Centric Lighting (HCL).
Explained simply, people in industrialized countries spend the vast majority of their time indoors, especially in their homes and often until it is dark, in comparison to our ancestors who were exposed to natural light much more frequently. This means the human body is often deprived of sunlight, fresh air, and additionally is misaligned to the natural day and night rhythms due to the artificial light in almost every building.
Natural sunlight drives humans’ inner body block (circadian rhythm), which in return is responsible for wakeup and sleep patterns. A lack of sunlight can increase the risk of developing sleeping and eating disorders, lack of energy, and depression, and is vital for the retina's development.
Human Centric Lighting (HCL) can mimic the sunlight, so that people who are exposed to HCL can get similar benefits as from natural daylight, e.g., supporting mental and physical health. Thus, HCL provides people who have to spend most of their time indoors an option to "re-synchronize with nature".
The daylight cycle with the appropriate type of light that we as humans should receive every day is shown below.
The initial challenge that the LEDVANCE gave us to address was as follows:
How might we design Human Centric Lighting (HCL) for elderly people in Germany to support age-appropriate life and to extend living within their own home?
From this statement, it soon became clear that the challenge had two primary challenges:
Lack of knowledge of natural lighting’s health benefits
While the health benefits of exposure to natural light have been thoroughly scientifically researched, the adverse effect that artificial light has on the human body and the fact that bad lighting has consequences that go beyond the visual aspect is not commonly known. Unfortunately, most people still use unhealthy static artificial lights at home, and it is challenging for the average person to make the connection between the effect of light and specific adverse outcomes.
Lack of lighting technology for elderly or senior users
Most health-focused lighting solutions cater to a younger target market, and require complicated installation and “unnatural” interaction methods with lighting products (e.g. many smart lighting solutions work with mobile phone apps, something many older users are not fully comfortable with). Thus, while some smart lighting solutions on the market provide light temperature and intensity for simulating natural light, this is not catered to the elderly.
As this course followed the structure of the famous Stanford University ME310 course, we followed an IDEO Design Thinking methodology in this project.
The IDEO Design Thinking methodology is an iterative, user-centric, and prototyping-based process. Over the 10 months, our team followed a greater macro-cycle, along with many micro-cycles throughout.
The macro-cycle includes divergent and convergent phases. In the divergent phase, the goal was “exploring” the unknown domain – determine light-related pain points of our target group and establish relevant use cases in which HCL can be applied. In the convergent phase, the focus was on synthesis of insights, and we transformed our knowledge into appropriate personas, user journey and user scenarios.
Within each phase, we also followed the micro-cycle framework to rapidly ideate, prototype, and iterate to generate and synthesize insights for the greater project.
During the project, we conducted extensive interviews with all relevant stakeholders (German seniors, their families, medical professionals, interior designers, etc.) and did participatory observations at the users' homes. Additionally, we built a meta-model to define the user journey and conducted a conjoint analysis (about 270 participants) to quantify qualitative user research by establishing the significance of different attributes of HCL. Moreover, we continuously tested our ideas with prototypes throughout the whole process.
SPRINT 1: USER RESEARCH
COMPETITOR ANALYSIS, INTERVIEWING & PROTOTYPE TESTING
Our team’s first goal was to explore the “design space”, entailing primarily three activities:
We extensively researched incumbent products in the market, in order to establish their value proposition, features and functionalities, and price points.
We created a pre-defined interview guideline to ask our target market (the elderly) about their needs and desires. We asked plenty of open questions to encourage users to talk about their daily life and schedules, as light forms such an integral part of it.
As part of the IDEO Design Thinking methodology, prototyping forms part of each phase. Thus, already early in the user research phase, we built and tested low-fidelity prototypes. We especially aimed to build prototypes to more intuitively explain the concept of HCL to users.
INSIGHTS & REDEFINITION OF THE CHALLENGE
We started our project having the elderly (70+ years of age) as the primary target user group. However, during the first phase of user research, we realized that the 'baby boomer” demographic is a better match for HCL because:
Thus, we recommended and convinced the company to shift the target group to the baby boomer demographic with all the insights we got from our research.
SPRINT 2: USER RESEARCH
PERSONAS & MOOD BOARDS
With a better-defined user demographic, the next step was to create personas and accompanying mood boards to demonstrate different demographic characteristics and distinct user needs.
Our approach is shown below, showing 4of our personas, examples of mood boards for the personas, and actual quotes from interviewees who influenced our personas.
TOO EARLY BIRD
ELENA, THE HIP LIFESTYLE HEALTH-ENTHUSIAST
“When a friend invited me to a yoga class, I felt a positive impact on my well-being immediately. Now I visit classes in a weekly manner.”
“I recognized that I recently became much more self-aware, minding not only my physically health but also my mental well-being”
“I don’t only eat healthy stuff necessarily because of the ingredients, also because I really love the taste”
SUSAN, THE LONG-TERM CONVINCED ECO-FRIEND
“I don’t understand the sudden hype around the term organic - the origin of food has always been important. There was just less buzz around it”
“I like to try out new things because it gives me something to explore”
“I could never do this boring 9-5 kind of work. I need more freedom”
“I’m starting to get really old, but my routine keeps me in shape”
Once we presented the personas to the company, we organized workshops with the company to determine and select the most promising personas. After detailed analysis and discussion, we finally decided to primarily target the “health-conscious baby boomers”.
The user journey we created in this project was slightly different from other projects that I have done, due to the fact that HCL was (and still is) a very new technology.
The primary challenge from the outset of the project was the fact that HCL – and the effects of healthy lighting – was unbeknown to users. We also did not yet know how to embody HCL with physical objects, making the start of the HCL user journey difficult.
Thus, we included “motivation” and “access” in the user journey as becoming motivated to try HCL and easily obtaining access to HCL are critical aspects of the greater HCL user journey.
Our user journey ('meta model') of HCL is shown below:
SPRINT 3: PROTOTYPING, A LOT
PROTOTYPING FOR EACH USER JOURNEY STEP
Now that we had a more concrete target user demographic and user journey defined for HCL, we continued to build dozens of prototypes to further narrow down what an HCL solution would look like for the three main steps of the user journey:
Why would people use or consider using HCL? While our consensus was that it would be primarily a health-conscious user aiming to improve his or her health, we still had to figure out the specific pain points of users.
How can people easily understand and access the benefits of HCL? What type of phrasing and imagery resonates with user group? How should HCL be embodied – i.e. how should it physically look like?
How would day-to-day interaction with HCL look like? Should it be accessed with mobile app? Or a switch? How frequent must the light change?
Building a lot of prototypes
In addition to our prototypes, we also conducted a conjoint analysis in order to establish how our baby boomer target group value different attributes (feature, function, benefits) that make up our proposed HCL offerings.
As per wikipedia:
The objective of conjoint analysis is to determine what combination of a limited number of attributes is most influential on respondent choice or decision making. A controlled set of potential products or services is shown to survey respondents and by analyzing how they make choices among these products, the implicit valuation of the individual elements making up the product or service can be determined.
Conjoint analysis example
SYNTHESIS OF INSIGHTS
By the end of this phase, we had reached the point in our project where we could bridge the divergent and convergent phases of our project. We had done enough user research and prototyping to synthesize our insights. Our team transformed quotes from interviews, insights from prototyping, and insights from the conjoint analysis, into clear user needs.
We also conducted several workshops with the company, where we clustered all user needs and prioritized them based on the core principles of human-centered design (desirability, viability, and feasibility).
Workshop with the company
Synthesizing and prioritizing insights
The three primary insights which determined the direction which we pursued were:
Health branding of HCL can motivate the target group to make a purchasing decision
The ease (or difficulty) of installation of smart lighting can act as a significant barrier for HCL adoption
While automatic HCL proved to be highly desirable by our target group, they didn’t want to lose the control over their lighting
SPRINT 4: FINAL SOLUTION
With clear user needs defined, we commenced with building higher fidelity prototypes, and testing them with users. During this phase, we went through a couple of iterations of building, testing, and re-iterating high-fidelity functional prototypes.
Our final solution presented and delivered to our corporate partner is called 'daycy' – a comprehensive design concept consisting of a smart lightbulb and switch (fully-functional prototypes).
It is designed to appeal to health-conscious and non-technical users, through emphasizing the product’s health benefits, plug-and-play functionality, and selling the product through health-related distributions channels (e.g. Drogeriemärkte).
Have a look at a short video below explaining daycy:
In line with the three primary insights identified during the previous sprint - health branding, ease of installation, and extent of automation - the value proposition of the final solution was based primarily on addressing these needs.
We decided to rethink traditional "boring" lighting marketing material, by creating marketing material which would appeal to health-conscious users. Non-technical HCL jargon which resonates with health-conscious users (established through trial-and-error in previous sprints) also features prominently.
Users emphasized, throughout the entire project, how current smart lighting products are complicated to set up. Especially for our baby boomer target demographic, this can be even more challenging. Thus, the daycy was designed to be play-and-play: you just have to screw the HCL bulbs in, and you can immediately benefit from a better light experience with no additional set-up.
daycy is plug-and-play!
Automatic syncing with the sunlight cycle
Addressing users' need to not constantly interact with the light, the bulb mimics the sun by automatically adjusting its light temperature according to the natural daylight cycle. This means the user gets 'the right light at the right time': cold white light during the day and warm white light during the evening.
daycy automatically follows the daylight cycle
Control the light with a simple switch
People are comfortable to interact with light through a traditional light switch - so why reinvent the wheel? The HCL bulbs will be completely controlled by a switch either wall-mounted or portable, and offers on/off and dimming functions. The user will never be required to download apps or to use a smart phone to control the daycy.
the daycy switch
Losing things is quite common! We designed daycy with a lost-and-found feature - if you misplace the switch, it's no problem. Just press the search button on the switch mount/holder and the switch starts to beep, making it easier to find your switch.
FINAL SPRINT: PRESENTATIONS & BUSINESS STRATEGY
To conclude the project, we presented our final solution to the public in San Francisco (USA), and Rorschach (Switzerland).
I was the lead keynote presenter for our team for all our presentations throughout the project, including the final presentations.
BUSINESS STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT
In addition to the solutions we designed and developed, our team also put together a business strategy for our corporate partner detailing how to bring the products we designed to market. This included a sophisticated marketing strategy, business model, ideal pricing, market and risk analysis, and so forth.
Our team also put together detailed documentation covering our entire year's work, including all user research insights, prototypes built, statistical results and interpretations from the conjoint analysis, etc.
FINAL LEARNINGS & CONCLUSION
This really was a comprehensive project, and I enjoyed it tremendously. A few personal learnings that I noted were:
#1 It's challenging finding a problem
While any UX Research project is never easy, the main challenge in this project was not necessarily developing a solution, but rather finding the problem. As lighting is something people don't really "think about" too often, we really spent a lot of time finding a need for HCL.
#2 Phrasing and terminology should resonate with users
Especially with a new technology with scientific jargon foreign to users, it is really important to establish what phrasing and terminology resonate with users - i.e. UX writing is important!
#3 Prototyping speeds up the process
Since we used the IDEO Design Thinking methodology, the goal was to build and test prototypes from the very start, even during the user research phase. As I see in every other project - "seeing is believing" - and users instinctively deliver more insightful feedback than just through interviewing or scenario descriptions.
#4 Prototyping gets team focus and engaged
For me and a few other team members, this was our first project in which we followed an exclusive Design Thinking approach. In addition to the insights obtained from prototype testing, building prototypes also engaged the team better and had us focus better on what we really want to test.
#5 Teamwork is important
As we worked in an interdisciplinary team, people bring different perspectives, ideas, and competencies to the table. While it is often challenging balancing everyone's needs in such a team, everyone has valuable input, and I personally learned a lot about managing teamwork over the course of this project.
I believe our team made significant progress in re-thinking light:
Light is a naturally healthy lifestyle product, and 'environmentally friendly' as it should be
Light must be smart, but simple to install
Light must be natural to use, but also personalized to users' needs
By making Human-Centric Lighting so simple to use, we can bring healthy, natural light into people’s home, help them re-synchronize their inner body clocks, and help them live a healthy life within the comfort of their own home.
(most of ) the daycy team after our final product presentation in Switzerland